Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 16

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 16:1. Came into the wilderness of Sin — Not immediately, for there is another stage of their journey by the Red sea, mentioned Numbers 33:10, (in which chapter, it appears, Moses designedly set down all their stations,) but omitted here, because nothing remarkable happened in it.

This was a great wilderness between the Red sea and mount Sinai, different and far distant from that Zin mentioned Numbers 20:1, which was near the land of Edom.

Verse 2
Exodus 16:2. The whole congregation murmured — For want of bread, having consumed all the dough or flour which they had brought out of Egypt. A month’s provision, it seems, the host of Israel took with them out of Egypt, when they came thence on the 15th day of the first month, which by the 15th of the second month was all spent. Against Moses and Aaron — God’s vicegerents among them. How weak and perverse is human nature! They had just seen the bitter waters instantaneously made sweet to assuage their thirst, and a little while before had been miraculously delivered at the Red sea, when there seemed to be no possible way for their escape; and yet so far were they from learning to trust in that divine, almighty Providence, that had so wonderfully and so evidently wrought for them, that on the very first difficulty and distress they break out into the most desponding murmurings!

Verse 3
Exodus 16:3. Would to God we had died — They so undervalue their deliverance, that they wish they had died in Egypt; nay, and died by the hand of the Lord too. That is, by some of the plagues which cut off the Egyptians; as if it were not the hand of the Lord, but of Moses only, that brought them into this wilderness! It is common for people to say of that pain or sickness of which they see not the second causes, It is what pleaseth God, as if that were not so likewise which comes by the hand of man, or some visible accident. We cannot suppose they had any great plenty in Egypt, how largely soever they now talk of the flesh-pots, nor could they fear dying for want in the wilderness while they had their flocks and herds with them; but discontent magnifies what is past, and vilifies what is present, without regard to truth or reason. None talk more absurdly than murmurers.

Verse 4
Exodus 16:4. Man being made out of the earth, his Maker has wisely ordered him food out of the earth, <19A414>Psalms 104:14. But the people of Israel typifying the church of the firstborn that are written in heaven, receiving their charters, laws, and commissions from heaven; from heaven also they received their food. See what God designed in making this provision for them; that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no — Whether they would trust and serve him, and be ever faithful to so good a master.

Verse 5-6
Exodus 16:5-6. They shall prepare — Lay up, grind, bake, or boil. The Lord brought you out of Egypt — And not we, as you suggest, by our own counsel.

Verses 7-9
Exodus 16:7-9. Ye shall see the glory of the Lord — Either this glorious work of God in giving you bread from heaven, or rather the glorious appearance of God in the cloud, as is mentioned in Exodus 16:10. Come near before the Lord — Before the cloudy pillar, where God was especially present.

Verse 12
Exodus 16:12. Ye shall know that I am the Lord your God — This gave proof of his power as the Lord, and his particular favour to them as their God; when God plagued the Egyptians, it was to make them know that he is the Lord; when he provided for the Israelites, it was to make them know that he was their God.

Verse 13
Exodus 16:13. The quails came up — So tame that they might be taken up, as many as they pleased. Although Ludolph has offered several arguments in his Ethiop. Hist. (l. 1. c. 13) to prove that the Hebrew word שׂלו, selav, here used, ought to be rendered locusts; it is certain, from Psalms 78:27, that birds of some kind are meant: He rained flesh upon them as dust, and feathered fowl as the sand of the sea. Buxtorf renders the word coturnices, quails. And Parkhurst, deriving the word from שׂלה, to be tranquil, or to rest, considers it as signifying a kind of bird that lived remarkably in ease and plenty among the corn. And, it seems, among the Egyptians a quail was an emblem of ease and plenty. It was also esteemed a dainty, and would probably rather be sent at this time than the locusts, which, though used for food, could hardly be termed flesh. According to Josephus, “there are more of this kind of birds about the Arabian gulf than any others. And flying over the sea,” he says, “and being weary, and coming nearer the ground than other birds, they took them with their hands, as food prepared for them of God.” But Josephus’s representation of the matter by no means comes up to the view of it given by Moses, (Numbers 11:31,) who says, that a wind went forth from the Lord and brought them from the sea, and let them fall round about the camp, a day’s journey on each side, and that they lay “two cubits high on the face of the earth.”

In the morning the dew lay — Hebrews שׁכבת השׂלshick-bath hattal, a layer, or bed of dew. With this, it appears, the manna was covered: to which the expression, hidden manna, (Revelation 2:17,) seems to allude.

Verse 14
Exodus 16:14. When the dew was gone up — To wit, into the air; or was vanished, there lay a small round thing — According to Numbers 11:9, there was a dew which fell before the manna; for it is said, when the dew fell in the night, the manna fell upon it. But it appears here, that there was also a dew upon it, which went up when the sun rose. So that the manna lay as it were enclosed. This might be designed to keep it pure and clean.

Verse 15
Exodus 16:15. They said one to another, It is manna — The original words, מן הוא, man hu, should certainly have been rendered here, as they literally mean, what is it? or what is this? for it is plain, from what follows, they could not give it a name, for they wist not what it was — It is to be observed, that although it came down from the clouds, not only with the dew, but in a kind of dew, melted, yet it was of such a consistency, as to serve for strengthening food without any thing else. It was pleasant food: the Jews say it was palatable to all, according as their tastes were. It was wholesome food, light of digestion. By this spare and plain diet we are all taught a lesson of temperance, and forbidden to desire dainties and varieties.

Verse 16
Exodus 16:16. According to his eating — As much as is sufficient. An omer is the tenth part of an ephah: about six pints, wine measure. This was certainly a very liberal allowance, and such as might abundantly satisfy a man of the greatest strength and appetite. Indeed, it would seem too much, were it not that it was very light food, and easy of digestion.

Verse 17
Exodus 16:17. Some more, some less — According as their families were more or less numerous; or as the gatherers were more or less strong and active in gathering it.

Verse 18
Exodus 16:18. He that gathered much had nothing over — Commentators interpret this in different ways. Some suppose that God wrought a miracle in this case, and so ordered it, that when they came to measure what they had gathered, the store of him that had gathered too much was miraculously diminished to the exact number of omers he ought to have gathered, and the store of him who had not gathered the due quantity, was miraculously increased. Houbigant, however, supposes that this was only applicable to the first time of gathering, “God admonishing them, by this event, that they should afterward do that which he himself had now perfected by his own immediate agency.” But others suppose, that had this been the case, as it was an equal miracle with any other recorded, it would have been mentioned that the Lord had done it. And they think, therefore, all that is meant is, that he who had not gathered a sufficient quantity to make an omer for every one in his family, had it made up to him out of what others had gathered, who had more than enough, and that they charitably assisted each other. This sense of the passage seems to be countenanced by St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. If understood in the first-mentioned sense, the apostle, in the application of it as an argument to encourage charity, must be considered as signifying that God, in an extraordinary manner, in the course of his providences, will bless and prosper those who in charity assist their brethren.

Verse 19
Exodus 16:19. Let no man leave of it till the morning — For the provision of the next day, as distrusting God’s care and goodness in giving him more. Not that every one was bound to eat the whole of what he had gathered; but they were to dissolve or burn it, as they did the remains of some sacrifices, or to consume it some other way. Thus, they were to learn to go to bed quietly, though they had not a bit of bread in their tents, nor in all their camp, trusting God with the following day to bring them their daily bread. Never was there such a market of provisions as this, where so many hundred thousand men were daily furnished without money and without price: never was there such an open house kept as God kept in the wilderness for forty years together, nor such free and plentiful entertainment given. And the same wisdom, power, and goodness that now brought food daily out of the clouds, doth, in the constant course of nature, bring food yearly out of the earth, and gives us all things richly to enjoy.

Verse 20
Exodus 16:20. Some of them left of it till the morning — Either distrusting God’s providence, for a future supply, or out of curiosity to learn the nature of this manna, and what they might do if occasion required; it bred worms and stank — Not so much of its own nature, which was pure and durable, as from God’s judgment. Thus will that be corrupted in which we do not trust in God, and which we do not employ for his glory.

Verse 21
Exodus 16:21. It melted — As much of it as was left upon the ground, not, it seems, from its own nature, which was so solid that it could endure the fire; but that it might not be corrupted, or trodden under foot, or despised, and that they might be compelled, as it were, to the more entire dependance upon God.

Verse 22
Exodus 16:22. On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread — Considering God’s present providence in causing it to fall in double proportion, and remembering that the next day was the sabbath day, which God had blessed and sanctified to his own immediate service, (Genesis 2:3,) and which, therefore, was not to be employed in servile works, such as the gathering of manna was, they rightly concluded that God’s commands (Exodus 16:16; Exodus 16:19) reached only to ordinary days, and must, in all reason, give place to the more ancient and necessary law of the sabbath. The rulers told Moses — Either to acquaint him with this increase of the miracle, or to take his direction for their practice, because they found two commands apparently clashing with each other.

Verse 23
Exodus 16:23. This is that which the Lord hath spoken — Either to Moses, by inspiration, or to the former patriarchs, on a like occasion. It is agreeable to the former word and law of God concerning the sabbath. To-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath — Here is a plain intimation of the observing a seventh-day sabbath, not only before the giving of the law upon mount Sinai, but before the bringing of Israel out of Egypt, and therefore from the beginning. If the sabbath had now been first instituted, how could Moses have understood what God said to him (Exodus 16:5) concerning a double portion to be gathered on the sixth day, without making any express mention of the sabbath? And how could the people have so readily taken the hint, (Exodus 16:22,) even to the surprise of the rulers, before Moses had declared that it was done with regard to the sabbath, if they had not had some knowledge of the sabbath before? The setting apart of one day in seven for holy work, and in order to that for holy rest, was a divine appointment ever since God created man upon the earth.

Verse 29
Exodus 16:29. The Lord hath given you the sabbath — Hath granted to you and to your fathers the great privilege of it, and the command to observe it. Let no man go out of his place — Out of his house or tent into the field to gather manna, as appears from the occasion and reason of the precept here before mentioned. For otherwise, they might and ought to go out of their houses to the public assemblies, Leviticus 23:3; Acts 15:21; and to lead their cattle to watering, or to help them out of a pit, Luke 13:15; and a sabbath day’s journey was permitted, Acts 1:12.

Verse 31
Exodus 16:31. It was like coriander-seed — In size, not in colour, for that is dark coloured, but this was white, as is here said, or like bdellium or pearl, Numbers 11:7; and its taste like wafers — Or little cakes made with honey; that is, when it was raw, for when it was dressed, it was like fresh oil. The reader ought to be informed, however, that the Hebrew word here used, and rendered coriander-seed, is of rather doubtful interpretation. It may possibly mean some other small seed.

Verse 33-34
Exodus 16:33-34. Take a pot — A golden pot, Hebrews 9:4. For all the vessels of the sanctuary were of gold. Lay it up before the Lord — That is, in the tabernacle, and by the ark, when they should be built: Before the testimony — The ark of the testimony, or witness, because in it were the tables of the covenant, or the law of God, which was a testimony of God’s authority and will, and of man’s subjection and duty, or of the covenant made between God and man. The preservation of this pot of manna from waste and corruption, was a standing miracle; and, therefore, the more proper memorial of this miraculous food. The manna is called spiritual meat, (1 Corinthians 10:3,) because it was typical of spiritual blessings. Christ himself is the true manna, the bread of life, of which that was a figure, John 6:49-51. The word of God is the manna by which our souls are nourished, Matthew 4:4. The comforts of the Spirit are hidden manna, Revelation 2:17. These comforts come from heaven, as the manna did, and are the support of the divine life in the soul, while we are in the wilderness of this world: it is food for Israelites, for those only that follow the pillar of cloud and fire: it is to be gathered; Christ in the word is to be applied to the soul, and the means of grace must be used: we must every one of us gather for ourselves. There was manna enough for all, enough for each, and none had too much; so in Christ there is a complete sufficiency, and no superfluity. But they that did eat manna hungered again, died at last, and with many of them God was not well pleased: whereas they that feed on Christ by faith shall never hunger, and shall die no more, and with them God will be for ever well pleased. The Lord evermore give us this bread!

Verse 35
Exodus 16:35. Israel did eat manna forty years — That is, save one month, as appears from Joshua 5:11-12. As Moses did not live to see the cessation of the manna, some have supposed that the words of this verse were added by Ezra. But although Moses did not go into Canaan, yet he came to the borders of it, and he perfectly knew, both from the nature of the thing, and by revelation from God, that the manna would immediately cease upon their entering into Canaan; and therefore might well write in this manner.